Hassocks landlord gets defibrillator in memory of friend

A pub landlord from Hassocks has installed a new defibrillator in memory of a friend who died from an undiagnosed heart condition.

David Simmons, 40, landlord of the Thatched Inn in Grand Avenue, said he hopes the machine will help his community in an emergency.

“I think there’s two defibrillators in Hassocks ” said David, who lives above the pub with his wife and two sons.

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“There’s one down near the men’s club and cricket club and there’s one by the station, but up here we didn’t have anything,” he said.

Landlord David Simmons at the Thatched Inn, Hassocks, with the new defibrillator. Picture: Steve Robards SR2107051.

David said the Thatched Inn is set quite far away from the village and is near fields that are popular with dog walkers.

“I felt it would be helpful to have something a bit closer to help anyone who’s at this end of town,” he said.

Gary Pope, who was 30, died in his sleep ten years ago while he was on holiday in Portugal.

Cardiac Risk in the Young’s (CRY) specialist centre at St George’s Hospital, London, concluded that it was likely Gary died from the genetic heart condition Brugada syndrome, which causes abnormally rapid heart rhythm.

Landlord David Simmons at the Thatched Inn, Hassocks, with the new defibrillator. Picture: Steve Robards, SR2107051.

David and Gary’s family have since raised thousands for CRY and David usually hosts two Elvis nights every year to help fund the charity.

But in December 2019, before the Covid pandemic hit, David raised enough money from the Elvis nights to purchase a defibrillator for his pub with help from the Sussex Heart Charity.

“I’d managed to raise about £500 and the machine was the best part of £1,000,” said David, adding that Sussex Heart Charity paid for the rest.

“Then Covid came around and I had it delivered, but it’s been sitting in my shed,” he said.

“But with the whole Christian Eriksen thing happening recently in the Euros it kicked my behind in gear to get it sorted,” David added, referring to the footballer who suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch.

David also realised that it was coming up to the ten-year anniversary of Gary’s death and said he would have a plaque put up in his memory as well.

The defibrillator, David said, comes in a case, which opens so people can take where they need to in an emergency.

When not in use it is connected to the electricity to charge and keep it at a constant temperature.

David said he would encourage other businesses to get a defibrillator installed if possible to help people suffering cardiac arrest.

“You only had to see the news about the footballer Christian Eriksen,” he said.

“It just goes to show you that it doesn’t matter who you are and how fit you are it can happen to anyone.”